From the Soviet Guide to Yerevan
This is the centre of Yerevan, where ceremonies and meetings are held and through which processions pass on highdays and holidays. The statue of Lenin (now GONE!), the work of Sergei Merkurov (1881-1952), a prominent Soviet sculptor, rises high over the southern part of the oval square. This skillfully executed image of the leader, philosopher and revolutionary spokesman is extremely impressive. The restrained movement of the hand, the slight inclination forward, as if taking a step into the future, give the sculpture a sense of purpose and movement. [The statue is now laying on the ground with its head detached behind the National History Museum, in its courtyard, if you ask they may show it to you.]
The statue was ceremoniously unveiled on November 29, 1940, on the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Soviet power in Armenia. The pedestal of polished granite was designed by architects Natalia Paremuzova and Levon Vartanov. The qualities of a great work of art, the synthesis of the statue with the surrounding buildings and the well-chosen site, which affords good lighting at any time of day, have made this statue famous as one of the best of Lenin.
Work to rebuild the square, which involved many talented architects, began in 1926. Alexander Tamanyan (1878-1936) is by rights considered to be the squares chief architect. He moved to Yerevan from Petrograd soon after the revolution, when he was already a famous architect and an academician. In 1924 he drew up the first general plan for rebuilding Yerevan, in which the future central square was given a special organising position. In those far-oft years Tamanyan was able to see the features of the socialist city of Yerevan in the small, provincial town. Even his most ardent supporters thought some of his ideas too extreme, and many totally impracticable.
The square was nevertheless built. The leaning houses, single-storey shops, restaurants, eating houses and baths were demolished and replaced by new buildings which organically combined national style and the best innovations of world architecture. By 1929 part of the square’s main building, Government House, was finished. This vast building, which now houses the Council of Ministers of the Armenian SSR, was finally completed in 1941. It forms an irregular pentagon, with one of its sides curving inwards. On this side five wide arches are supported by attractive columns. An elaborate colonnade, forming open boxes, stretches the whole length of the facade above the arches.
A tall clock-tower, above which flies the Armenian flag, crimson with a blue stripe down the centre, divides the main facade.
Tamanyan studied ancient Armenian architecture at length, reworking and then using many of its features, in order to design Government House. The result is a masterpiece, a truly national work of art, which has greatly influenced subsequent Armenian town planning.
City squares are built in different ways. There are squares designed in one style by one architect. Such, for example is La Place des Vogueses in Paris, whose architect was Claude de Chastillon. Others are built over several decades, and despite the difference in style of architects of different times, have in end acquired unity and integrity, as for example St. Mark’s Square in Venice and Palace Square in Leningrad.
Lenin Square (14,000 square metres) has a unified architectural style. Another administrative building, which houses several ministries, is symmetrically sited next to Government House, on its left. This lovely building, faced in cream-coloured stone, was designed by architect Samvel Safaryan. It repeats, to use musical terminology, the motif and rhythm of Government House, yet at the same time possesses individuality. You can compare these buildings at length, yet while they remain similar, Government House is characterised by its elaborate forms, and the other attracts by its austerity.
Other important buildings on the square are the Main Post Office with telegraph and long-distance telephone services, and the Council of Trade Unions building, which stand to the left of the statue of Lenin as you face it, and Armenia Hotel.
You have doubtless already noticed the intricate ornamentation on the buildings. Armenian stone masons have perfected the ancient and noble art of working with stone. The part that stone, in which Armenia is so rich, has played throughout its people’s history is shown by some Armenian sayings: “Hewn stone will not lie long unused on the earth” “Good stone is precious even when it lies in mud”, “As you won’t sit down to eat with anyone who comes along, so you won’t build a house with any stone you find”.
Much of Armenia’s architecture is decorated with stone designs by master craftsmen. The buildings in the square are adorned with such traditional motifs as fantastically intertwined bunches of grapes and pomegranates, sheafs of wheat and heads of birds and animals.
The “singing” fountains are also to be found on Lenin Square. Designed by engineer and scientist Abram Abramyan, they combine music, water and colour into a unique, unified whole. Hundreds of local people and visitors gather here in the evenings to enjoy the wonderful play of the streams of water, lit by all the colours of the rainbow.
Directly opposite the fountains stands a building which houses three of the city’s major museums: the Museum of the Revolution, the Armenian History Museum and the Armenian State Gallery.
Shahumyan Boulevard, truly a realm of fountains, has its starting point at the statue of Lenin [Near HSBC Bank]. The myriad fountains are difficult to count, and we will tell you that there are 2,750 pearly streams of water: as many as the years since Yerevan’s founding when the anniversary was celebrated in 1968.
In the middle of the boulevard, which is 220 metres long, there burns an eternal flame in memory of those who fell to establish Soviet power in Yerevan (architect Eduard Sarapyan). At the other end of the boulevard you emerge onto the square where the statue of Stepan Shahumyan (1878-1918), revolutionary and one of Lenin’s closest comrades stands. The life of this talented leader of the masses, publicist, promoter of revolutionary ideas and founder of the first Marxist society in Armenia, was cut short in 1918, when he was shot along with other commissars by interventionists. Sculptor Sergei Merkurov has depicted Shahumyan at the moment of his shooting, with his unfailing courage, pride, persistence and contempt in the face of death for the sake of his beliefs.